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There needs to be a basic understanding–self-protection and self-defense are not about fighting. Further, fairness (as in the mythical fair fight) is a myth. Self-protection is about avoidance whenever possible. Avoid dangerous areas, establishments or places where it’s known where people are victimized. Scan your environment, what comes into it, and the threat it presents to you. If you can, walk, run or drive away to avoid physical confrontation; because standing toe-to-toe with an attacker trading blows is not what you want.

That said there is a vast gray area in the chasm in personal protection between empty hands and deadly force. Somewhere between punching someone and shooting them is a pressing need in your self-defense strategy. It is this area that far too few people equip, plan and prepare to defend themselves. Threats from empty-handed suspects, which comprise the vast majority of assaults against citizens, cannot be answered with deadly force. For instance, the irate driver who walks toward your car pointing his finger and spewing obscenities, the drunk in the restaurant parking lot making offhand comments, the aggressive panhandler or the obnoxious youth with the potty mouth at the mall–these threats obviously cannot be answered by your concealed pistol and deadly force.

Deadly force is reserved for situations where a reasonable person would believe that his life or the life of another is at risk of death or serious bodily harm. This doesn’t mean that any of these aforementioned situations couldn’t have the bottom fall out and you find yourself fighting for your life or that of your loved one, just that most street altercations are not deadly.

Despite the positive aspects of what martial arts can do for you, there is no need to see if that strip mall dojo self-defense works in real life. Force tools exist that allow you to control a threat through the application of less-than-lethal-force. Most of these tools are in use by law enforcement today. Think about it, if a strapping young police officer with the ability to call more strapping young police officers for help is equipped with most of these tools – wouldn’t it be wise if you had at least one less-lethal option?

Chemical Agents

Probably the most prevalent of all the categories, chemical agents are readily available and can be very effective in a self-defense setting. There are two chemical formulas widely used in self-defense sprays today: CS – Chlorobenzylidene Malononitrile (commonly known as tear gas) and OC – Oleoresin Capsicum (pepper spray). CS is widely used by American police in riot control and SWAT team call-outs (such as barricaded subjects). CS can be spray, deployed via burning grenades or delivered in powdered or liquid form via projectiles fired from launchers. Because pepper spray burns it is usually disseminated via aerosol sprays or fired in projectiles. It has more instantaneous effects and OC is more widely carried and used by uniformed police. Pepper spray is classified as an irritant and is very effective when sprayed into the eyes of an assailant. A severe burning sensation occurs when the chemical hits the face and eyes. When successfully deployed, most suspects will clutch their eyes and bend over giving you the opportunity to make a hasty departure or strike them if you can’t get away. OC sprays come in different types of dispensers and formulas. There are some excellent new products in this category.

Kimber has developed the Guardian Angel Pepper Blaster, a two shot device that “fires” (with compressed air) a pattern of high-quality 10% OC product. The Guardian Angel is about four inches long and 2.5 inches wide, with an integral clip. Small enough to be carried in a pocket or purse, the Guardian Angel is an excellent design.

Spitfire pepper spray is a small OC dispenser that can be carried unobtrusively on your keychain and yet ready for instant deployment. The Spitfire unit fires from the top, which makes it a little more ergonomic for deployment in my opinion. The Spitfire projector fires a blast of 10% OC product rated at two million SHU (Scoville Heat Units). It fires out to eight feet and contains enough OC for eight .5-second deployments. New from Spitfire for 2010 is the Hex, a 5.5-inch OC spray device that doubles as an impact weapon (known as a palm stick or yawara). The Hex can be used to deliver hammer strikes or jabs as well as impacting pressure points or pain compliance holds. Sabre Red is an OC product that has been manufactured by Security Equipment Corporation for a number of years. With very high-quality pepper spray products (5 to 10 percent OC ingredients, 2,000,000 SHU’s and up to 1.33 percent Capsaicinoid content), Sabre Red has developed a line of pepper products for both police and civilians. New from Sabre Red is Blue Face. Not only does Blue Face hit your assailant with some serious chemical agent, it also leaves a blue dye on them that is good for 24 hours, making subsequent identification by police much easier.

Pepper sprays are available in a variety of sizes, from large cans suitable for mini-riots to pen-sized dispensers. Are they 100 percent effective? No. But my experience has been that a good quality spray is about 80 percent effective. Some sprays have limited range while others (usually larger) are good out to 20 feet or so. To be effective for self-defense, the OC spray must be in your hand or capable of being drawn quickly (fishing around in a bag or purse is a no – no). Chemical agent sprays will not completely incapacitate all suspects but they will reduce their ability to see and afford the citizen the ability to escape or counterattack.

Electrical Weapons

The debilitating effects of electricity are well known. High voltage at low amperage is very effective at stopping even the most hardened of suspects. Stun guns can be effective but require that you make contact with both probes at the front of the electrical device. I’ve used these devices in the field with success but if you or the suspect moves the circuit is broken.

Taser has been around for years and their impact on law enforcement suspect control is well known. This same high-tech suspect control technology is available to you. The Taser C2 and X26C are both available to civilians. Both use the same compressed nitrogen system to fire two darts from the replaceable cartridges out to 15 feet. The C2 is a very sleek non-weapon looking self-defense device that resembles at slightly curved TV remote. Slide the safety cover back with your thumb and the light/laser activates. Press the button and two darts (Taser calls them probes) fire out to 15 feet as the unit sends its electrical charge into the assailant for 30 seconds.

The X26C is a civilian version of the law enforcement and military X26. The X26C looks more like a pistol (as Taser wanted for familiarity and ease of deployment). The X26C has a thumb safety which, when disengaged, turns on the aiming laser and the white light. Press the trigger and the Taser fires. If both probes impact, then voila–you have contact and a completed circuit with 50,000 volts headed down range into your attacker. Both units can be used in the “drive stun” mode, wherein the front of the unit is pressed into your assailant as you press the trigger. Taser requires you complete a background check to activate (available online instantly through Taser) and supplies a training DVD as well as an owner’s manual with each unit purchased.

Contact Weapons

In the contact weapons category we have impact weapons (palm sticks and batons) and kinetic energy impact munitions (fired through a shotgun).

A club or bludgeon is mans oldest weapons system, and their use is still valid today. That said, impact weapons specifically designed for that use and carried by law enforcement come across better in court, post incident, than smacking somebody upside the head with a tire tool or baseball bat. There are a variety of stick training systems (most are Filipino martial arts – FMA based i.e. Eskrima, Arnis and Kali), and a standard rattan stick in the hands of an FMA practitioner can do more than just smack someone over the head. Armament Systems and Procedures (ASP) has an excellent line of expandable batons. Some are lighter in weight and more readily concealed. With a flick of the wrist, an ASP baton can extend out to 21 inches. New from ASP this year is the 16-inch Agent expandable baton that incorporates a pocket clip. Designed for plainclothes officers and agents, the Agent can be easily carried in a coat pocket or stuffed in a belt.

Available from Cold Steel is the Pocket Shark, a magic marker on steroids. This 6.25” long marker was specifically designed as an impact weapon or a palm stick. According to Cold Steel the plastic walls of the Pocket Shark are four times thicker than a standard permanent marker. Held in the fist and delivered like a hammer blow or thrust into an assailant’s face or neck, they deliver serious focused energy on target. These innocuous defense devices can be inconspicuously carried in even the most controlled environments for a close-in impact weapon.Heretofore only carried by law enforcement or the military, impact munitions from Lightfield is making their 12 gauge less lethal line available to civilians.

*(Note – these are properly described as less-lethal, not non-deadly. Impact munitions can and have caused death or serious bodily injury.) The idea behind the Lightfield products in the hands of civilians is that a homeowner can deploy their 12 gauge impact munitions in a house more safely than standard bird or buckshot. Lightfield’s line includes their “Star” munitions (kind of looks like a Koosh ball) and rubber slugs. Make no mistake–these are serious munitions with velocities in the 500 fps range that deliver energy levels in excess of 40 ft/lbs. Yes, they have the capability to penetrate sheetrock walls but over-penetration is much less of a problem than standard scattergun fodder.

What Is Right For You?

As a six foot two inch male, let me state that I have on or about me one or all of these devices at all times (in addition to my concealed firearm, two spare reloads and a quality knife). As a husband and father that my significant other and my daughters have less lethal intermediate force options available. So important are these options that I incorporate them in my and my family’s self-defense strategy.

As the survivor of armed and countless unarmed confrontations (including an attempted robbery while in plainclothes) I believe in planning, preparing and practicing a sound self-defense strategy that includes dealing with non-deadly threats to my safety. Having less-lethal tools allows a multi-option approach to personal safety. Getting and keeping the edge regardless of the threat against you takes thought and preparation. It has worked for me over the years I would recommend the same to you!

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There needs to be a basic understanding--self-protection and self-defense are not about fighting. Further, fairness…